The Feminist Reason Why Millennials Are Having Less Sex

by Robyn Smith

Being pressured to have sex just isn’t cool anymore, according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The study, which came out Tuesday, states that while the vast majority of young people are still doing the big bang, many are decidedly not — and those that aren’t are than twice the number of Gen Xers (when they were their age) and even older Gen Yers.

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“As people have gotten much more accepting of all sorts of forms of consensual sex, they’ve also gotten more picky about what constitutes consent,” Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families, told The Washington Post. “We are far less accepting of pressured sex.”

And who is seemingly the most targeted group of pink fortress pressure? That’s right! Young women! The same young women who’ve been empowered to say no, and that no means no!

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Other possible reasons for the decrease in afternoon delight are the nature of our communication, the rise of the so-called hook-up culture among young people, and simply that people just aren’t interested—they’re too busy working or studying.

“For an average date, you’re going to spend at least two hours, and in that two hours I won’t be doing something I enjoy,” 18-year-old Noah Patterson told the Post. 

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I feel you, Noah. I dislike dating and everything about it. It’s awkward and it triggers deep-rooted anxiety that’s hard to ignore. Dating, however, usually leads to bam-bam in the ham.

Also, with the easy access to porn (which disrupts someone’s actual bow chika wow-wow, a la Don Jon), it’s discouraging to go out of one’s way to make a romantic boom-boom.

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15 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds have not bumped uglies since turning 18, up from six percent in the early 1990s, according to the report. 

“Although millennials are more accepting of extramarital sex than earlier generations, they reported fewer sexual partners than any group since the 1960s—an average of eight, compared with 11 for boomers and 10 for Generation X,” says the Post.

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Others say that, since the decrease is most profound for those born in the mid-1990s and later, which is also the same group of people who practically grew up with smartphones, there’s a greater emphasis on physical appearance—leaving out all the average-looking folks. Since with most dating apps, it only takes a few seconds to decide whether to give someone a shot at love or not, there’s almost no way to make up for physical appearance with charm or a sense of humor.

Beauty is still in the eye of the beholder, but rejection takes just a swipe of the thumb.

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And while we all know that looks aren’t everything, when we only give ourselves a few seconds to react, we tend to stick to superficial first impressions when it comes to whose banana we want to peel or kitty we want to feed.

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Many are quick to blame the hook-up culture described above—casual humping and all its consequences are turning anyone who’s interested in a deeper connection away from making love—but this isn’t the case. There are actually, on average, a lesser number of sexual partners among millennials than there were for the generation before us. We’re actually boinking the same number of people that our grandparents did when they were our age.


That’s a fun conversation to imagine. While BUST certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to compare body counts with their grandma, it’s definitely interesting how reality, yet again, contradicts what’s depicted in mass media.

 “Marriage is the traditional outlet for sexuality, and only 26 percent of millennials aged 18–32 were married as of 2014, compared to 36 percent of GenX’ers (born 1965–1979) in 1997 and 48 percent of Boomers,” said NY Mag.

Basically, that means that there are a lot of us in our parents’ basements, watching TV or playing video games, worrying about our careers and hardly ever seeing people face to face. Why would we go out of our way to meet up in person, when we can just text or, if we really miss each other, FaceTime?

I want to laugh at this delaying of adulthood, I really do, but I’m 20 and I’ve spent a good chunk of my summer break on my parents’ couch. I’m currently in the middle of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and it’s the fifth TV show I’ve binge-watched since classes ended in May. I also have Bumble, a female-friendly dating app similar to Tinder but significantly less creepy. I go on it occasionally, often swiping through men and women as fast as I can go without accidentally swiping the wrong way. I rarely reach out to the people I match with. It’s an overwhelming feeling of indifference toward potential mattress-dancing partners that I just can’t bear to spare the energy toward.

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Looking at more factors than just age, the study shows that more women than men, white people than black people, those without a college education vs. those with one, and those who live in the East rather than the West are rubbing wet spots less often.

“It’s also consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data,” Martin Monto, a sociology professor at the University of Portland who is not linked to the current study, told CNN.

“The most recent CDC data (PDF) on teen sexual behavior found that the percentage of high school students who have had sex plummeted from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015,” the article went on to say.

The dating pattern most resembles that of the 1920s—This must be why so many speakeasys are coming back, too. And flapper dresses made a comeback a few years ago. That explains everything.

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To be honest, I think that the most likely is a combination of all of these factors. A true disinterest in sex, and the empowerment of both women and men to say no and mean it, as well as many other (better) things we can do to entertain ourselves, are all enough to turn anyone away from the whole ordeal. Many of the people who are doing less two person push-ups were raised immediately following the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s, which likely had a *deep* impact on their sex education and how sex really could equate to death.

Regardless of the reasons we’re remaining abstinent, at least we have all of the following to do instead:

1) Masturbate.

2) Read the news.

3) Play PokemonGo.

4) FaceTime our parents.

5) Eat chocolate/Chipotle/Cava/Sweetgreen/ice cream.

6) Read fan fiction.

7) Play Dungeons & Dragons.

8) Play video games.

9) Binge-watch Stranger Things or anything else hot on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/Youtube right now.

10) Sit on our parents’ couch and cry about how we have no career prospects.

See? There are tons of great alternatives to the big nasty! Happy (not) humping on this hump day, everyone!

More From BUST

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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